[extropy-chat] Futures Past

Harvey Newstrom mail at harveynewstrom.com
Sun Oct 9 14:12:28 UTC 2005

On Oct 9, 2005, at 8:49 AM, Greg Burch wrote:

> Since I was old enough to read, I've been engaged by projections about 
> the future.  My favorite parts of the set of children's encyclopedias 
> we had in the early 1960s were those that provided projections about 
> the future. They showed me such wonderful visions: Atomic-powered 
> cars! Cities under the sea!  Vacations on the Moon! All this would 
> come to be by the time I would be the age my parents were then.  Well 
> now I am that age and we know what happened to all of those glossy 
> futures.
> But somehow, I never seem to learn.  Seven years ago, we had a 
> discussion here on the List about what we called "near-term 
> projections" for the future to c. 2015.  I gathered together some of 
> the ideas in that discussion and put them in what I called a "futurist 
> time capsule."  Here it is:
>        http://www.gregburch.net/writing/NearTerm.htm
> It makes for interesting and, in many instances, painful reading.  
> Bear in mind that this was the vision some of us had in the Spring of 
> 1998.  We were surfing at the zenith of the 1990s Bubble.  The 
> Collapse of the Bubble, 911, Enron, Columbia – all were in the future.
> What do you take away from looking back on looking forward?

This is very important for us to learn.  I am greatly dismayed at the 
outlandish predictions that are still being made by transhumanists.  I 
am still seeing predictions of human-level AI, self-replicating 
nanotech, curing cancer, curing aging, human uploading, animal 
uplifting, etc. within the 5-10 year timeframe.  The above examples are 
the tame ones.  You can also find examples from the early 1990's where 
we thought we would be in space by now, or beyond the singularity, have 
AI robots doing our laundry, etc.

We have to learn to really develop technology, and really architect 
future while basing our predictions on real designs.  Just 
extrapolating past patterns onto the future just doesn't work.  It 
isn't just glossy sci-fi magazines that failed to predict the future 
accurately.  It was us!  Transhumanists are not any better at 
predicting the future than others.  It is just that we err on the side 
of overstated exuberance while others err on the side of pessimistic 

Harvey Newstrom <HarveyNewstrom.com>

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